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Creating New Knowledge

Letter from VPR Walsh on the Effects of Sequestration

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you now know, the deadline to avoid the federal budget sequestration was Friday, March 1st. No deal was struck in DC so the mandated budget cuts have started to take place.

In brief, defense discretionary spending (including defense R&D) will be cut 7.8% and domestic discretionary spending (including non-defense R&D) will be cut 5.1% for FY13; unless a new deal is struck, sequestration cuts will continue to impact future budgets for the next decade.

The impact of the sequester on individual grants is largely dependent on how each sponsoring agency implements the required cuts. As I write this, I cannot provide grant-level specifics. Candidly, I realize this means I can only provide a macro-level summary of the situation but not provide information that indicates how your own particular funding will be impacted.

What we know thus far follows:

  • NIH has indicated that they expect to fund non-competing awards at lower levels (e.g. 90%), and make fewer competing awards; however, each NIH Institute and Center will be allowed to choose the means by which it applies the cuts. See
  • NSF expects to fund ~1,000 fewer grants, although it expects to continue current awards at the current levels, with no impact to existing standard grants, at least for FY 2013. See
  • DoD estimates that DoD funding of university research for FY13 will be cut by ~ $300M.
  • In a recent meeting, we heard that each DOE Office of Science program is to spend in this, the second, half of FY13 at 50% of the minimum of: 
    • the final 2012 appropriation
    • the President's budget request for 2013
    • the House of Representative's committee recommendation for 2013
    • the Senate committee recommendation for 2013

Northwestern's President, Office for Research and Government Relations Office continue to advocate directly for the importance of research to our nation's future in Washington DC.

Naturally, it would be wise if

  • PIs were to maintain contact with their program managers/officers for specific information regarding their particular grants
  • PIs and their administrators were to monitor accounts particularly closely to avoid overruns

On July 17, 2013 the National Science Foundation issued Important Notice 133A, an update to its Notice 133 which explained the impact of Sequestration on NSF operations for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The key information from the update is:

  • NSF will fully fund all existing continuing grant increments in FY 2013;
  • NSF directorates have now received full-year funding allocations, which will allow funding decisions to be made prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30th;
  • NSF expects to make fewer new awards in FY 2013;
  • NSF will fully fund all FY 2013 major research equipment and facilities construction projects;
  • Competitions for some programs and solicitations may not be conducted in FY 2013; and
  • NSF staff will not be furloughed, allowing for no interruptions to the NSF proposal review and award decision making processes.

You may recall that the original Notice 133 indicated that 1000 fewer new awards would be issued this year.

The entire Important Notice 133A is at

We have found that the following web site offers good links to agency plans.

Finally, please feel free to share this email and any other information that we disseminate with staff who may be concerned about how sequestration may affect them.

This is a dynamic and uncertain situation. I certainly wish that I had more specific information to share; but naturally, as we hear significant up-dates, I will see that such information is made available.

Best regards,


Joseph T. Walsh
Vice President for Research
Northwestern University

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